With a lot of resources having come out recently around taking care of our mental health throughout this period of social isolation, we also wanted to share what we’ve been doing to support our clients throughout this process. Many of our mental health workers see up to 20 clients a week. And even though we’re not a clinical practice, there is a lot of counselling that takes place in supporting someone else. So if you are a fellow mental health professional, and you are now caught in the tough spot of supporting your clients while keeping your distance, this may be the article for you!
And if you have any tips for us – we’d love to hear them! We are always looking for new ways to support our community!
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST.
I cannot stress this one enough, and you cannot hear it enough. I know that logically you understand this, however, I REALLY need you to grasp this at all levels. The first couple of days of taking appointments over the phone, I was so concentrated on being the light for others, that I unconsciously pushed down a lot of uncomfortable and nervous feelings that I was having myself. In fact, by the end of the day, I found myself shaky and having trouble drawing a breath, yet I had no anxious thoughts that I was aware of. All this to say, that whatever is going on in the back of your mind, and whatever fears or questions you may be having, will find their way out in one way or another.
So take the time to sit, reflect, be upset, feel your emotions and fears, so that you really can be all in with your clients. This means that we also need to stick to our regular routines as much as possible, practice grace and love with ourselves, and understand that we are all dealing with this for the first time, and that we are not going to be perfect moving through this. That means that you, a mental health professional, are not exempt from feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or just ‘off’.
VALIDATE THEIR CONCERNS.
These seem so obvious, why am I writing them? But if you are anything like me, you know that a period of forced self-isolation is something that can be pretty scary to your clients who already isolate the majority of the time because of symptoms of depression or anxiety. And for us, it can be pretty scary watching the people that we have worked with, made progress with, walked alongside of, slowly slide back. So what do we do? We get on the offense. We try to make sure that they are still sticking to their routine. Getting up at the same time. Getting showered and dressed. Getting out of the house and going for a walk. Writing in their journals. But wait – if we’re allowed to be upset about this, then isn’t everyone allowed to be? YES. Allow people to feel what they need to feel, and to express that without a plan of how to wade through those emotions right away. Yes, it is super important that we are disciplined about leaning in to those positive coping skills, but it’s even more important that we allow everyone to be human first.
You do not need to be a beaming light of optimism in every phone call you are on, and that may not be what your client needs at this time. I have found so much connection with people in letting them know that you know what, I’m a little freaked out too. I too, am out of my routine and I’m not quite sure how to handle it. I too, stress ate an entire bag of jelly beans (and they weren’t even that good). Sometimes knowing that you’re not the only one who isn’t handling something well can be the comfort that you need that day. The other day I swapped Netflix recommendations with a client, and you know what, she had some really good ones. I hope she’s enjoying Love is Blind as much as I did.
WE CAN DO HARD THINGS.
One of the biggest things that have come out of client appointments over the last week, is knowing that we can get through this. In a time of uncertainty, I have been able to remind them of the hard parts of life that they have already walked through, and that they can do this too. One thing I know is that every single human being that is sitting here reading this right now, has gone through something in their life that they thought might break them, but it didn’t. And that means that we are stronger than we know. We can do the hard things. We have done the hard things, and we’ll get through this too.
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN.
Everything feels out of our control. We know that. We know that we can’t go and visit friends like we did before. We know that we can’t work in the office with our team. We know that we are supposed to self-isolate and that means that a lot of things are out of our reach right now. But, there are things that we can control. Our mindset being one of them. Having a list of things to go to when you feel like your thoughts are spiraling can be super helpful. For me, when I need to get myself out of a rut, I love to turn up a song and make myself dance it out for 30 seconds. I can’t control everything, in fact there’s very little that I can right now, but physically moving my body in some way gives me the energy to challenge those thoughts that are really unhelpful at times like these.
KEEP YOUR APPOINTMENTS.
Since everything else has been feeling out of routine, I have been making sure that clients still have scheduled appointments, even if they’re over the phone. And I tell them that if you can, show up to these appointments as you would to the office. That means that you would likely shower, brush your teeth, have something to eat, and change out of those pajamas that you’ve been wearing since yesterday. Establishing some sense of routine is something that I can do for clients at this point in time.
I strongly believe that the one positive that has come out of this is that the meme world is on fire right now. If we can’t laugh about this in some capacity, it is going to be that much harder. Set the tone of appointments to be lighthearted and humorous if possible. I know that not every appointment is going to be like this, but you may be the only contact someone has that day, and if you can make them laugh, bonus points for you!